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Ecosystem-based Vulnerability Framework to Prioritize Research on Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Issues Affecting Pacific Fisheries


The impacts of climate change on a wide range of elements in freshwater and marine ecosystems increase the complexity of how managed species interact with their ecosystems. This complexity makes it difficult for resource managers to establish research priorities for understanding how climate change affects healthy ecosystems and economically viable fisheries. This project aimed to develop a climate change risk assessment framework to help inform the management of increasingly vulnerable species.

Results: Researchers employed an existing method developed in Australia to assess climate change vulnerability of marine species over several risk categories. This method was applied to 43 marine species in ecosystems on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It identified several issues with the way that vulnerability of ecosystems is calculated, as well as a need to tailor the method to each local environment and ecology. This will require re-evaluating the influence of each risk category, as well as considering whether additional categories, such as ocean acidification, should be considered.

Researchers also adapted another existing ecosystem risk assessment framework to assess the vulnerability of salmon and associated fisheries to climate change. The new framework deals specifically with the impacts of climate change on the various life stages and habitats of salmon and was successfully used to identify the future vulnerability of several South Coast Chinook and Sockeye salmon conservation units.

The vulnerability framework tool cannot fully replace human experience and expertise; researchers explain that it should be used in combination with expert insight. Results from this work will be used to identify climate adaptation options to be considered for incorporation into future integrated fisheries management plans.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Pacific: North Coast and Hecate Strait

Principal Investigator(s)

Kim Hyatt
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Jim Irvine
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Bill Crawford
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Karen Hunter
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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